6:31pm: Whitner won’t serve as an immediate threat to either Boston or Coleman if the Panthers sign him, reports Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer. Rather, he’d act as depth for a team currently dealing with injuries to reserve safeties Dean Marlowe, Marcus Ball and Trent Robinson.
A three-time Pro Bowler, the 31-year-old Whitner immediately became one of the most accomplished free agents on the market when the Browns released him in early April. There hasn’t been much interest in Whitner since then, however, as his only prior visit came with the Rams a week after Cleveland released him.
In trying to find a landing spot for Whitner last month, PFR’s Dallas Robinson listed the Panthers as one of eight potential fits for the former Ohio State Buckeye. As Robinson wrote, Tre Boston – the Panthers’ prospective starter at free safety – doesn’t have Whitner’s track record. Boston has totaled just six starts since the Panthers chose him in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, and he only partook in 20 percent of their defensive snaps last season.
Having lost veteran defensive backs Josh Norman, Roman Harper and Cortland Finnegan in recent months, it’s possible reigning NFC champion Carolina isn’t comfortable turning to the relatively inexperienced Boston as a starting option. If the Panthers end up going with the more established choice, Whitner, he and fellow ex-Buckeye Kurt Coleman would form an enticing safety duo on paper.
Whitner, a 10-year veteran, has started in all 93 of his appearances since 2010. The last time Whitner started in fewer than 14 games in a season was in 2009, when he missed six contests. In 14 appearances last year, Whitner amassed 81 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Despite failing to pick off a pass for the first time since 2008, Pro Football Focus ranked Whitner as the league’s 24th-best safety among 89 qualifiers.
Since entering the league as Buffalo’s first-round pick in 2006, Whitner has racked up 143 starts in 146 appearances, 11 interceptions and 10 forced fumbles in his time with the Bills, 49ers and Browns.
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